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Philadelphia, U.S.A. — A new article released by U.S. News and World Report explains that parents play a major influence when it comes to how their children view dental professionals. In fact, a study conducted by Spanish researchers suggests that the higher the fear of the dentist in one family member, the greater the fear in the rest of the members of that family. For this reason, Sean Hebdon, a dental professional who practices in Chicago, Illinois, urges parents to promote positive feelings about trips to the dentist’s office.
The study looked at 183 children ranging in ages from 7 to 12. The families of the children were also examined. Researchers from the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid determined that a father’s feelings about a trip to the dentist ended up having a major impact on whether a mother’s fear of the dentist would be passed on to the children.
America Lara-Sacido, a co-author of the study, said the following in a news release from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, “Although the results should be interpreted with due caution, children seem to mainly pay attention to the emotional reactions of the fathers when deciding if situations at the dentist are potentially stressful.”
The results indicate that there is a strong need to involve parents, particularly fathers, in the effort to keep kids from fearing the dentist. This is an important part of helping kids learn the importance of the dentist from a young age, thus setting them up for strong oral hygiene habits as adults. To do this, fathers should make regular trips to their dental practitioners, and must approach these visits without signs of fear or anxiety.
Dental professional Sean Hebdon agrees with these findings saying, “As a dentist, I see a lot of people who are afraid to come to my office. However, I always find it particularly intriguing when children express an extreme fear. If a boy or girl has only had a few trips to the dentist and is seeing a qualified and gentle professional, this type of fear leads me to believe that a parent or sibling is influencing the child’s nerves. For this reason, it’s extremely important that trips to the dentist are not viewed as negative or scary in the home.”
Hebdon continues, “Parents must speak in positive tones about these trips and explain to their son or daughter why they’re important. Kids look to Moms and Dads for indicators about how they should feel, so positivity is important in order to help children learn to appreciate the dentist. You want them to strive to have good oral hygiene for the rest of their lives.”
Study co-author America Lara-Sacido went on to explain that relaxed parents help to ensure that the child is relaxed too.
Sean Hebdon agrees with this assessment, adding, “Based on my experience, a parent who comes in laughing and smiling is more likely to get their kid feeling the same way about the trip. On the other hand, a parent who appears nervous or uncertain is likely to have a child mimicking this behavior. We forget just how influential we are over our children.”